I knew there had been a shift when I picked him up Saturday morning to take him outside. He felt lighter, less here.
He wasn’t sick for long. He was a tough little dude — by the time he was ten years old he’d torn the ACLs in both of his back legs because he liked to jump off of things that were too high to jump off of, but he never made so much as a peep. Both injuries slowed him down for a while, but Petey could still fly when he wanted to. He was pretty hardy for eight or so pounds. When I noticed the cough he’d developed when he’d try to sing along with something he liked (y’all know he was singing until the very end) and that I also heard when I picked him up to hold him, I took him to the vet. I feared cancer or something, but the x-ray and EKG revealed nothing but a general inflammation and fluid sort of everywhere. Just old dog stuff, they said. He’d been slowing down for the past few years so I wasn’t surprised. His eyes were going and he’d lost most of his teeth. But I was determined not to put him through a bunch of drug therapy or surgeries. He’d lived a long time and though I wanted him to be here for as long as he could, I knew that as long as he could was something only he could decide. I wasn’t about to put a geriatric dog through pain that he didn’t need to endure or prolong his time here because I couldn’t stand to see him go. I trusted him. My only desire was to keep him comfortable, to love him as much or more as I always had, and to let him have his dignity. We started him on a diuretic and he seemed to be doing fine — the cough didn’t go away but he seemed happy. He spent the week before the last of his life sitting on a pillow in his beloved sunshine in Tennessee. Petey was a king and he knew it.
When we returned to NYC a week ago I told him he could be still for a while. A less than twenty-four hour trip back to Nashville on Wednesday found him with his sitter as I didn’t want to make him travel again so soon. He was the ultimate road dog and rode in a bag underneath the seat in front of me on I don’t know how many planes, and has traveled in more tour buses, vans, and cars than I can count. He was a trooper and hardly ever complained. But I knew I was time to let him rest. When I got him back on Thursday, he was his usual sweet self and did all his usual sweet things.
Saturday morning came with some heavy and rapid breathing. I knew the the corner had been turned so I wrapped him in a blanket and spent most of the day on the couch with him. I consulted with all of my fellow dog lovers, mostly my sister, and they coached me through my worry. He was still drinking and eating, so I thought he’d be around a while longer even though he seemed to be heading out. At 1am on Sunday morning I woke just in time to hear him take his last breath. Petey always slept with me and that night was certainly no different. When he exhaled for the last time something in the room changed. He was no longer in that tiny body and that I knew. I thought my heart would burst from sadness as I looked at him and stroked his little head, but I was also taken by the fact that I could feel him all over the room.
When a spirit leaves a body, where does it go? I know that it supposedly means those of us who believe in any sort of afterlife possess outside egos and that’s what makes us think this plane isn’t the last one — we can’t possibly be snuffed out and cease to exist, right? But I don’t agree with that theory, and not because my puppy just died and I don’t want him to be completely gone. Energy can’t be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed or transferred. (Thank you Law of Conservation of Energy).
We are energy. Petey was energy and I saw that when I felt him leave his body. I felt it the morning before when I picked him up and noticed it had changed. He was getting ready to go. But does energy concentrate in one place, like a ball of glowing ghost material? Or does it scatter like the sparks that fly off of the tip of a sparkler, throwing itself into every corner of the universe? Can it do whatever it wants whenever it wants if it isn’t harnessed into a container?
I don’t know. But just as I know souls come from somewhere when they inhabit a physical form, I know they go somewhere when they’re out of one. Godspeed my faithful companion Petey, and send your light to us whenever you’re not too busy getting cosmic belly rubs in what I hope is the most beautiful sunbeam you’ve ever seen.
Happy Monday, Y’all.